The Young Unknowns
Elias Savada, 11 April 2003
Director Catherine Jelski's
debut feature, "discovered" at the twenty-fifth Toronto Film
Festival back in 2000, is getting a belated release this month
through Indican Pictures. Don't blame the delay on 9-11, the War in
Iraq, or all those celebrity couple break-ups; it's going to be a
hard sell no matter when you get this film into the marketplace.
This actors' tour-de-force over content is a raw study of the young
and the disillusioned among L.A.'s rich upper crust. Early Neil
LaBute it ain't.
The minimalist day-in-the-life
story allows you an eighty-seven-minute visit with the snobbish
Charlie Foxx, played with brutish vulgarity by Devon Gummersall (My
So-Called Life). He spends his days in the family's posh
California home, soaking up the chlorine in the pool, sipping
bottomless margaritas, chain-smoking, maxing out his credit cards,
and otherwise carousing with other like-minded, insecure brats. His
parental units are absent: father Sebestyen is a famous commercials
director somewhere on the road between La-La-Land and London, while
mom's been out of the family picture since Charlie was twelve.
There's a decade of familial angst that has undoubtedly hoisted much
of the anger on rich, pretty Charlie. Although mom sends back
occasional photos from Vermont or wherever, twenty-three-year-old
sonny boy begrudgingly leaves her mail unopened. Simon Templeman
literally phones in his part as the distant dad.
Charlie's part-time, sleep-in
exotic girlfriend Paloma (Arly Jover) -- by day a Hollywood
production coordinator, by night (and day) wondering what the heck
she's doing with this rotten schmoe -- deserves a better man and a
car that works. I continually asked myself, "Will audiences pay to
see such an immature and off-base creature, with oodles of money,
constantly put down the entire human race, save himself and best bud
Joe (Eion Bailey), a even more freakish, violent imitation of
himself?" (No.) Both "men" (each actually belongs to a much lower
species) have a nasty knack for the steady dirty dig, particularly
Joe -- no doubt the reason he can't maintain a relationship -- and
even puts it to Paloma, asking Charlie to "control his woman."
Jelski plays up the characters at
the expense of nearly any story development (she also wrote the
script, inspired by the stage play Magic Afternoon by
Wolfgang Bauer), focusing on the two male peas in their pod. Charlie
rants about the incompetents around him. A cameraman shooting some
out-of-focus footage. His mother. And "stupid" Paloma herself. A
third of the way in she's had enough and splits, allowing for the
leggy entrance of light-haired model Cassandra (Leslie Bibb), a coke
whore who is Joe's squeeze for the day.
"I'm a friend of Joe's," she
introduces herself to Charlie and Paloma. It seems Jelski has
written the Spaniard back into the script, when any sensible gal
(fictional or not) wouldn't have given either of these cads another
drop of spit. Anyway, Charlie, obviously awe-struck by the new
blonde in the house responds, half-jokingly and even semi-lustfully,
"Sure you are."
Within minutes, this turgid
microcosm seemingly unravels as Joe breaks Cassandra's nose, which
gives the passionless Charlie goosebumps for the "love" he sees
between the couple. But Charlie's all talk and no action, as Paloma
calls his bluff. "I'm so sick of this," she mourns. We're all sick
of it, Paloma. Her idea of escape is through the front door; Charlie
sees it in the shower, with a blade cutting their wrists. Anyone
having stumbled through the film this far is heading for the red
Where's the next monkey wrench?
Well it arrives soon enough with a phone call from dad: mom's dead.
Fetal despair, more drugs and even more alcohol follow.
You're not going to feel
enlightened by The Young Unknowns and, frankly, you'll
probably benefit by keeping them unknown from your film-going
pocketbook. There's a spiral-down atmosphere permeating the film and
its assorted crankheads and control freaks, overwhelming its ounce
of remorse ("I known I'm an asshole. Forgive me."). The Young
Unknowns is so very R-rated soap opera, with a nod toward
Clockwork Orange. It's one big, ugly party monster. Speaking for
the rest of us wallflowers, I'd sit this one out.
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not